Monday, 18 February 2013

Saturday 16th - Jamnagar - Ornithologist's Delight

The noise of heavy rain wakes us at around 5a.m.  No point in trying to go back to sleep as those guests going out for the early morning safari are making a tremendous racket. The rain has passed but it is cold enough for fleeces when we make our way to reception for a first light bird walk. Our guide is very knowledgeable - he carries the same guide that R does but can say which page a given bird is shown on from memory. We walk along the camp track for a while then cut across country.

There are many different birds to see but photography is difficult as most seem to have the sun behind them. D was quite pleased with this shot of a Spotted Owlet.

In total we walk and watch for two hours so we are ready for breakfast back at the Camp. We bundle together our belongings and it is time to go. Poor Davendra had to sleep in the car last night as he could not find digs. Our travels today take us to Jamnagar on the northern coast of Sarashtra.

The countryside is more undulating on for the first part of the trip and we are travelling on much quieter roads. We pass through lots of villages, including one where many of the population are quite clearly of African origin. We see plenty of rural pursuits including the famous one of sorting the sheep from the goats. Eventually we leave the hilly area and are once more back in an area of dead flat arable land.

By 2 p.m. we reach Jamnagar and check into the Hotel President, possibly named in honour of Eisenhower if the decor is anything to go by.. We have a balcony - shame about the view. The hotel's owner, Mushtaq, is a very keen birder and we are summoned to his office. After being told that we need at least 3 days to do justice to birding in and around the city he quickly works out a plan for us. This afternoon visit the lake in the centre of the town, return at last light to see the starlings return from the fields to roost and at first light tomorrow visit a reserve a few kilometers out of town. That's sorted then.

The lake is a five minute walk from the hotel and surrounded by a wide, paved embankment which catches the breeze nicely on what would be a hot day otherwise. The 2012 monsoon failed in Gujarat and there is much less water than would be normal but it has attracted a wide range of birds including both Rosy and  Dalmatian pelicans, lesser flamingos, ibises, a couple of spoonbills and lots of ducks and waders. R has a marvellous time with her binoculars.

We spend a good two hours here, walking right around the lake until R decides that it is time for a retail break. We head off into the old city wandering along alleys and finding some fascinating old buildings. R buys herself a couple of pairs of harem pants. The price label looks as if it says 960 but in fact this is in Gujarati numbers and she is charged 180 per pair. D eventually navigates back to somewhere that we recognise and we make our way back to the lake.

We have been promised that the sky will turn black with starlings but for a while nothing much seems to happen. Jamnagar doesn't appear to get too many non-Indian tourists. We are treated as celebrities, being hailed from passing motorbikes, engaged in conversation by promenaders and having our photographs taken both openly and on the sly. Suddenly great flocks of Rosy starlings fill the sky and for a few minutes there is quite a spectacular display.

After such an eventful day we barely have the energy to eat, and despite the traffic noise are soon sound asleep.

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